Your Digital Pinball Machine

@codinghorror Is it possible to add flashers, knockers or any kind of force feedback to the virtuapin mini? Is there space for it? Looks great!

Thanks for post…worth reading nice one

Sure there’s room, but how would it work? E.g. it’d need to replicate the force feedback of a 360 controller to work with Pinball FX 2.

I was a pre-adolescent boy during the glory days of the 1970’s electromechanical pins, and was age 13 right about the time that Bally Playboy (and early digital) came out, and can remember going to the teen disco with my friends around that time and being too scared to hit on girls, we would always wind up in the pinball area (I specifically remember the machine there being Bally Six Million Dollar Man - which transitioned to the video arcade era when the classic video game Big Bang happened.

Anyway, when I got to college age, I was no longer scared to pick up on women, so I didn’t play much pinball or video games, but did start getting back into both with the Williams Fire! pinball and the R-Type video game when I was a grad student at Georgia Tech. After school, a friend of mine bought an old machine, and I decided I wanted to get into this hobby, so I bought … a Playboy! Many years later I now count 21 in my herd, about equally divided into electromechanical & digital (yes, I’m a bachelor, LOL). I have a hobby interest in setting up a application that could simulate an electromechanical machine as a state machine - i.e., such that the entire game play could show the states of all the electromechanical elements (it wouldn’t be like Visual Pinball, but something with a bunch of Button controls that would be serve to actuate something getting hit, etc.) Of course, I should really get all my pins in perfect working order before I get into doing that, LOL.

To me, the realness of pinball is something that virtual pinball cannot reproduce; in some ways the electromechanicals are even more real as there are the clunky relays, switch disks and the “heart”, the score motor cam. That said, when I’m on the road, I sometimes play Virtual Pinball (although it really needs some structure as it seems to be a complete mess to actually get a game properly installed), and I have used Virtual Pinball to “test-drive” new pins that I have added to my herd.

I submitted some PRs to the DMD extensions project, so that the Virtual DMD on a monitor is a bit closer to a real DMD look:

The left bottom is what it used to look like, way way dim … the right bottom is what it looks like now if you pass --color ff0000 at the command line, but the default Colors.orangered is pretty good too!

The dots are quite close together on a real DMD

Great review. Your guided tour of the inside of your VirtuaPin Mini cab helped me immensely learning the internals of mine.

I agree 100% with what you wrote (including the Ferris reference) about the hardware. It’s top notch and the amount of workmanship displayed is pretty impressive.

Can’t really support your reasoning for TPA over VP. Yes, many VP tables are past their prime, but I would put up some of the VPX tables I have on my Cab against anything farsight has put out.

I also can’t abide by your insinuation that the “unlicensed” tables are somehow taking food out of peoples mouths. With the exception of Stern, all the other pinball manufacturers have been out of business for decades. Gottlieb is a VC group that picked through the remnants of their Bankruptcy to purchase the rights to the name. And Scientific Games bought the rights to all the WMS assets and has done nothing accept charge licensing fees for the use of the name.

Can’t say I am enthusiastic paying licensing fees to a bunch of corporate jackals that did nothing but pick up the name via bankruptcy auction or corporate buyout.

Most VP authors do their work out of a labor of love for the game and not pure profit. Not sure why that is so distasteful to you. If the money were going to the actual designers and employees that made these beautiful machines, then that would be one thing. But it’s not.

I do love TPA and once their cab support gets better, I might give them a shake, But until then, I’ll focus on the best VP pins I can find.

Thanks for the Timeshock tip, though. I’m going to buy Timeshock and Cab it up this week. It should look amazing.

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I guess it is just a personal preference. To me, VP tables look (and play) like games built in the 1990s out of construction paper. I vastly prefer full 3D table simulation for the better physics, freedom of camera movement, and generally superior simulation of the real world versus a bunch of 2D bitmaps and hardcoded values.

Got Timeshock running on the Cab, and everything you said is true. It’s bliss. Kind of puts all the other tables to shame. Adjusting the view is a little wierd, but once it’s dialed in, it is magic.

Another upgrade I would suggest is pulling the trigger and getting the plunger kit from zebsboards. The tech used is miles ahead of the IR sensing used by VirtuaPin. If you want to simply want to use the plunger to blast the ball up on the playing field, then the default plunger in the cab is fine. But if you are trying to do skill shots, (aka pinbot or cyclone) the IR sensor method is just not consistent enough.

Zeb’s plunger is nearly a direct replacement as it also includes an accelerometer and 20 inputs. The use of an actual sliding pot for the plunger is much more accurate. Wiring up was easy if you have the wiring diagram for the VirtuaPin controller.

2 small caveats. First, the design of the Zebsboards does not allow you to “twist” the plunger. If that’s a deal killer for you, then you won’t want this. Second, the one I bought did keyboard emulation instead of straight joystick. 14 of the inputs were keyboard, 4 were controller buttons. This requires extensive remapping.

I think Zebs has a “controller” based board which would do straight controller buttons, which would eliminate remapping. But it wasn’t a big deal.

For about $100 to $150 US it is like putting a subwoofer in your car. Sure you don’t “need” it, but once you’ve done it, you don’t know how you lived without it.

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@codinghorror Are you still enjoying your VirtuaPin Mini? Do you ever regret not getting the full size version? I’m a bit on the fence between the mini and full sized version.

Definitely still love it! I need to hook up Kinect support for Pinball Arcade / Arcooda, and FX3 grabbed the Williams license so things are very much alive.

If you have a large house and lots of space, sure, go with the full size version. But I like the mini version for my small California home :wink: